Hemlock Society

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The Hemlock Society USA was a national right-to-die organization founded in Santa Monica, California by Derek Humphry in 1980. Its primary missions included providing information to dying persons and supporting legislation permitting physician-assisted dying. In 1992, following the publication of his book Final Exit, Derek Humphry left the leadership of Hemlock Society USA. In 2003 the national organization renamed itself, and a year later merged with another group into a newly formed national organization called Compassion & Choices. A number of unaffiliated local organizations continue to operate under variants of the Hemlock Society name.


Prior organizations, such as the Euthanasia Educational Council which formed in 1967 and changed its name to Concern For Dying in 1978 pre-dated The Hemlock Society and it's mission.[1]

Hemlock was a founding charter member of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies when the international organization initiated in 1980 in Oxford, England, by Sidney D. Rosoff and Derek Humphry. Hemlock's national membership grew to 40,000 with eighty chapters. In 1988, Hemlock hosted in San Francisco the 7th biennial conference of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies.[citation needed]

In 1998, the Hemlock Society began a program called 'Caring Friends' which provided members with support and guidance, nationwide, if they were terminally ill and asking for help to die. The program expanded on work being done in Washington State and Oregon by Compassion In Dying Federation. Its staff included Dr. Richard MacDonald, Hemlock's medical director, Faye Girsh, executive director, Wye Hale-Rowe and Lois Schafer. Strict guidelines were put in place to protect Caring Friends from legal problems, and it had none.[citation needed]

In 2000, Hemlock staged in Boston the 10th international conference of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies, which was attended by 483 people and had 66 speakers.[2]

Hemlock backed legislative efforts in California, Washington, Michigan, and Maine without success until the Oregon Death with Dignity Act was passed in 1994. Hemlock infused (under IRS rules) a total of $992,210 on six campaigns.[citation needed]

Past Hemlock Society USA presidents included Gerald A Larue, Derek Humphry, Sidney D Rosoff, Wiley Morrison, Arthur Metcalfe, John Westover, Faye J Girsh. Past executive directors included Derek Humphry (1980–1992), John A Pridonoff (1993–1995), Helen Voohis (acting 1995-1996), Faye J Girsh (1996–2000).

The organization changed it's name to End of Life Choices in 2002 and merged with Compassion In Dying Federation in 2003 to become Compassion & Choices. Several supporters of the Hemlock Society started Final Exit Network in 2004 and have sustained chapters in Chicago, San Diego and central Florida.



See also[edit]


  1. ^ "News and notes". Death Studies. Retrieved December 30, 2014. 
  2. ^ Timelines (Hemlock Society newsletter), Fall 2000, #85
  3. ^ Richard N Cote, In Search of Gentle Death, Corinthian Books, 2008, Page 6, ISBN 978-1-929175-36-9
  4. ^ Constance E. Putnam, Hospice or Hemlock? Searching for Heroic Compassion, Praeger, 2002, pg. 51; ISBN 0-89789-921-0
  5. ^ Sidney Wanzer MD and Joseph Glenmullen MD, To Die Well. Your Right to Comfort, Calm and Choices in the Last Days of Your Life, Merloyd Lawrence, 2007, pg. 85; ISBN 0-7382-1083-8
  6. ^ Donald Cox, Hemlock's Cup: The Struggle for Death with Dignity, Prometheus Books, 1993, pg. 178; ISBN 0-87975-808-2
  7. ^ Henry R. Glick, The Right to Die: Policy Innovation and Its Consequences, Columbia University Press, 1992, pg. 103; ISBN 0-231-07638-X
  8. ^ Peter G. Filene, In The Arms of Others: A Cultural History of the Right-to-Die in America, Ivan R. Dee, 1998, pg. 196; ISBN 1-56663-188-2

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